‘Baghon mein bahar hai,’ echoes from the audience, reminding Ravish Kumar about the ironic (now iconic) question which he tossed at two mime artists on Prime Time, his program while taking them on the censorship politics. Ravish smiles and then engages the largely young gathering of budding Hindi journalists over the next 40 minutes at the Sahitya Aaj Tak festival in New Delhi.
The video clip seems to be proof of how he radiates empathy for an audience which clearly regards him as a role model. He is a hero to them not only for his courageous journalism but also for his personal journey which took him from the obscurity of Motihari (Bihar) to the stardom in Delhi.
To multiply the delight of the audience, Ravish also chooses to unveil his latest book (love story) – laprek (Laghu Prem Katha), which is a collection of love stories authored by him. The story turns out to be a wry and elegant play on demonetization. It highlights how young lovers argue and fight while dealing with a practical problem: They have to find a birthday gift for a lover with a now “fake” 500 rupee note. He ends the interesting tale with a captivating line: ‘Koi nahin, hamara pyaar samjho do hazaar’ (Never mind, our love is like the new Rs 2,000 note).
As a part-time poet, a chronic blogger with over 2,000 pieces of writing on his name and as a full time anchor managing the tight rope walk of news industry on his Prime Time from Monday to Friday – in all his avatars – this 44 year old is bending the challenging and trying to transform the society with his will.
He finds a way to convert the earthy speech of the street and rural tea shop with into a sophisticated irony and then present it with almost magical ease and a deadpan expression. His lucid commentary and sparkling wordplay make him common man’s favourite. Not only in his show, even when you meet him in person, he is effortlessly expressive. Metaphors just don’t stop rolling off his tongue, even though, he claims that being profiled like this makes him as nervous as “a prospective groom being sized up for matrimony.”
He never fails to give credit to his soil for his linguistic wit and often says Ravish “When I was growing up, it (Bihar) was a very poor state, but it had a life. Even at teashops, if you couldn’t talk to a certain standard, nobody would talk to you. Every society gives something to its people, and this is what Bihar gave us.” Maybe, it is these Bihari roots which made him willing to mount the daring heights of media and challenge the political establishments.
Even if you don’t follow him regularly, you must have watched two of his episodes. First, the mime to protest against censorship which was telecasted after the government announced a day ban on NDTV India for alleged State security infringements in its news coverage (the matter is now in court and the ban was later put on hold amid media protest).
The second was where he used a dark screen and a soundtrack filled shouting voices from TV debates to show a glimpse of the “Arnab Goswami School of Journalism”.
This fierce Indian journalist has now been awarded the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless”. As he says “Look, I was a rotten student, I have had the privilege of having failed many times, so I don’t fear failure. If I get an idea in a flash, I try it out.” Today, when TV journalism is day by day losing its credibility, anchors like him keep our hope alive.